Special Counsel Brian Sylvester was quoted in the xtalks.com article, “How to Produce & Regulate Lab-Grown Meat: Experts Explain,” about critical food safety and regulatory issues that the lab-grown meat industry will face on its pathway to pre-market approval.
Sylvester noted that it was not clear until recently which federal agency will regulate the emerging industry, but in a ground-breaking agreement made earlier this year, the USDA and the FDA agreed to share joint regulatory oversight of the industry. Notably, cell-based seafood will be regulated by the FDA. “With respect to cell-based meat, poultry and other USDA-amenable species, the FDA will regulate the production process up until the point of harvest from the bioreactor,” he said, “after which the USDA will take the lead when it comes to the processing and labeling of these products.”
There also is an ongoing issue with labeling, Sylvester said. Some states have claimed that the term ‘meat’ can only be used for products that come from a slaughtered animal. However, makers and advocates in the alternative market argue these laws violate freedom of speech. “There is no clear answer on what labeling will look like there, but gleaning on the whole discussion from bioengineered food, we can expect consumers will expect to see labeling that discloses exactly how their food is made. If it’s a chicken or beef product made with cell-cultured technology, then consumers will likely expect this to be made clear. And it remains to be seen if the USDA will require such a disclosure or whether the Agency will permit voluntary disclosures,” Sylvester said.
There are many issues to consider from labeling to food safety, but Sylvester says one thing is certain, as technologies for cell-based meat grow in scale worldwide, the US wants to be in the lead. “It is clear that the United States is definitely interested in being at the forefront of this technology. The regulators have moved quite quickly, and I expect this pace to continue as this technology scales up.”